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New KPCU management lures coffee farmers

By Wangechi Waithera

Farmers listen to the New KPCU board chairperson Henry Kinyua. They agreed to sell their produce to new KPCU. PHOTO: WANGECHI WAITHERA.

The new KPCU has started a countrywide awareness campaign to lure farmers to sell coffee directly to it. The new board’s chairperson Henry Kinyua has said farmers have the freedom to sell their produce to KPCU either individually or through a coffee co-operative society. Speaking while addressing coffee farmers in various coffee factories in Murang’a County, Kinyua said the newly structured KPCU is committed to better farmers’ payments.

Kinyua said farmers have been complaining of poor payments for decades and that they should take advantage of the liberalisation of the sector to choose a miller of their choice. He said the board will go around the 32 coffee growing counties talking to farmers about the opportunities made available by the reformed organisation.

The organisation has a membership of about 750,000 small scale who are members of 300 co-operatives and 2,000 large scale farmers. President Uhuru Kenyatta reconstituted KPCU’s board late last year.

“The new KPCU has opened its doors to farmers and anyone can enter into a milling agreement with us anytime,” he said.

He said members will be treated as equal partners and will be involved in every process that their coffee goes through from milling to sale.

He said the board will not issue a fixed price as its objective is to source for the highest prices possible.

Already, farmers from three coffee factories from Kigumo sub-county have agreed to start selling their coffee to KPCU.

Mathare-ini, Nguku and Karia-ini factories were members of Thanga-ini coffee co-operative society.

The three factories have suffered from multiple coffee thefts and consistently low prices that farmers said occasions them losses.

They said the government-run KPCU is better placed to mill and sell their coffee as it is not making profits. They said millers pay them poor prices and then their co-operative societies use up a big part of the payments, leaving them with peanuts.

Kamau wa Beth, a farmer, said they entrusted their produce to KPCU to do away with the many middlemen that line up the coffee value chain. He said he received Sh. 20 per kilogram last year which not enough to cover his expenses.

Higher buying price

“I know the government can get better prices because it is not bent on making profits like the millers we have been selling to,” he said.

He, however, noted that they will stop selling to KPCU if it is unable to sustainably pay good prices and safeguard their interests. He asked the government to prosecute those who caused the collapse of KPCU to encourage integrity in the new team.

Kinyua also noted that the Coffee Cherry Advance Fund Regulations may be ready and accessible to farmers by March.

After going through the public participation stage, Kinyua said the regulations will them go through parliament farmers before becoming a law.

The money, he said, will be deposited in farmers’ accounts and that they will receive an advance of Sh. 20 against every kilogram of coffee delivered.

The chairman said the money will support farmers as they wait for their coffee to be sold and save them from exploitative loans from financial institutions.

Last year, the government announced that it had established a Sh3 billion revolving fund to be issued out to coffee farmers with various leaders calling for an increase of the fund.

The chairperson of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Coffee Cherry Advance Fund Regulations Geoffrey Malombe last month said the government has put in place measures to ensure the fund benefits farmers as soon as possible.

Malombe who was meeting stakeholders in Murang’a said the government will roll out an intensive sensitization program to create awareness about the fund. Farmers will repay the loan with an interest of three per cent which will go towards covering administrative costs.

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